How to select the right audition monologue?

By Fernanda Karpienski | Last Updated: December 16, 2023
Imagine a film gaining tension and suspense, and then reaching the point of no return where it seems the hero’s journey has almost broken down entirely. The story is hanging from a thread. The character’s dream is fading into near blackness . . . But then, with a touch of energy left, we enter that pivotal moment, where there comes a decision that leads us to the final act in a film. You have followed the central character. You have gained sympathy and grown an emotional connection. And by now, you understand the character’s tiny odds of winning in the end.
Next, put the lead actor with one or two supporting actors, all of whom are in the park or restaurant or apartment together. For a beat or two, the camera closes in on the central character. We see the main character’s face up close for a moment as the confession and the inner-dilemma gets revealed in a long, powerful moment which often puts you to tears.
Enter, the monologue: a speech, a powerful stream of dialogue that somehow summarizes everything — from the start of the journey to the hardest moment of conflict where we ended up now — a speech that forms a dalliance between that of the sad and bitter threat of an end and that of a final glimmer of hope.
Such a moment comes fraught with raw emotion. A monologue also happens to be a great audition tool used by casting directors when finding the right actor for a role. Below, I have prepared some helpful tips to keep in mind when choosing the right monologue for your next audition. Hint: they might not be at all what you think:
1. Choosing from a book of monologues is not the best idea.In fact, it is never a good idea because it usually means many other actors have chosen the self-same monologue as you, which means a casting director has more than likely heard it more times than they want to. Instead, choose something fresh and lesser known. And if the monologue is from a film you like, make sure it is not a pivotal scene but one of the smaller, less rememberable moments. And, what’s more, do not choose a monologue from an Oscar Winning Film. Stick to independent films, or even choose a scene from a film obscure and less known.
2. If you deeply relate to a character in a film, and you find the right monologue that you can relate to on an emotional level, choose that one:This is because often times a film that you relate to and truly like, will make it far easier to flow deeper into the character and the monologue itself, which, in turn, brings out more authenticity. Don’t be afraid to go further than what’s comfortable. Without a doubt, if you do this without fear there will be no other actor that can compete with you being true to yourself.
3. Which monologue an actor chooses informs the casting director far beyond the performance itself. t informs a casting professional more about who the actor is, what the actor is attracted to. The pacing of the dialogue and how the actor chooses this also reveals the inner-workings of the actor. What’s more, even the depth or lack of depth of the chosen monologue sheds light on the kind of acting and films the actor is inherently drawn to. A casting director reads into all of these decisions made and they give away a bigger picture of the actor in question.
4. Think twice about using a monologue from theater when it comes to a TV or film opportunity.It’s not so obvious but how a playwright writes dialogue and how a screenwriter does it can be slightly different. This is because in theater, the dialogue is less about words and language and more about the rhythm and sounds produced. While dialogue written for stage might be more literary and a bit more awkward, for film the language often flows easier and has a more natural cadence that is closer to real life. With that said, don’t make your life harder. Stick with a monologue from a film if you are pursuing a role in one.
-Fernanda Karpienski